I move into the shade next to Administrating John. My AstroTurf burnt knee stings, and I try and soothe it by pouring some now-warm Evian over the raw flesh. Administrating John has been pretty quiet since he was helped off the pitch after the hefty Belgian centre-forward had ploughed into him mid-headed clearance, upending him so as to land on his head.
"So," he says, "I’ve taken a knock to my head have I?"
I pick at my knee, and mumble affirmation.
"The thing is, I can’t remember things."
I pause from my first aid, and look up.
"What sort of things?" I asked, a little intrigued.
"Well, erm, I know we are in Spain, and I hit my head. And I know I’m Administrating John, and you are Huw. But, apart from that… I don’t remember any of today. Or yesterday come to think of it. Or the day before."
In truth, Administrating John probably isn’t the only one amongst us with a hazy recollection of the last day or two. A rather heavy and late first night – in which one too many beers was followed by one too many orujus which was then followed by the thieves and prostitutes of Barcelona descending on the clearly wasted British contingent and lifting a grand total of €600 in four frenzied wallet-grabbing hours – is one which still remains clouded in much mystery for some. I probe Administrating John. Surely, he remembers desperately hailing a taxi to escape from a horde of West African hookers in the early hours of the previous day, screeching at the driver to "¡conducir conducir!" as they closed in and began rattling the door handles like in some Romero-Porn crossover. I’d have thought you don’t forget such escapades.
This draws a blank, albeit amused, stare. I run through other events from the last few days. The whole of that morning, our hotel, the various meals we’ve had and characters we’ve encountered: all gone. I recount other things we have seen and done, hoping to jog something. Administrating John looks bewildered, but not scared. He reminds me a little of someone on ecstasy, glancing around and nodding enthusiastically to any suggestion with unfocusable avidity. But then, on reflection, I can’t say for sure that’s not just how Administrating John is anyway.
I try going a bit further back. His full name, the prime minister, the year. That stuff all seems okay.
"Your mother’s maiden name?"
"Bengough," I realise I have no idea of Administrating John’s mother’s maiden name, but try to nod in an encouraging manner.
"Your pin number?" I attempt, but alas it’s retrograde amnesia, not temporary gullibility.
"Surely you remember the flight over here?" I ask. Any notion someone might care to hold of the British as anything approaching a dignified race can immediately be vanquished with a trip on a budget airline, especially one heading out of Luton. We’d had the pleasure of not one but two rugby teams – one of which was from Slough. I need not elaborate further – and the under-21 Charlton Athletic women’s team. With them, together with the token drunken Irish woman they bellowed encouragement at as she staggered up and down the aisle caterwauling in that way the Irish oft mistake for singing, it was a lively flight. Having flown perilously low over the Pyrenees – the budget cost perhaps going hand in hand with a budget altitude – we hit a spell of prolonged turbulence over the foothills, and the flight descended into something sounding like a human farmyard, as the rugby players waheyed each bump and the girls screamed. As the reluctant flyer Klangers had said afterwards "it was horrific. In any other flight, everyone is civilised about it and shits their pants in silence whilst quietly squeezing the armrest to a pulp. Those animals positively embraced the terror."
"So we flew here then?" Administrating John responds.
I tend to my knee again.
"So, how many have we played?"
"Well, two so far. Quite long and hot strenuous games too. Nothing?"
"Er… no. Have we been winning?"
The Catalonian team, our next opponents, strut about manfully in the heat, their six burly Argentines playing a brisk game of piggy-in-the-middle without breaking a sweat, their confidence buoyed no doubt at having just seen us play. I don’t speak much Spanish, but laughter is a pretty universal medium.
I decide to spare him a detailed account. I’ll break that news to him eventually.
More importantly though, I think, how to tell him of Scolari? How to tell him of Rooney?
4 weeks ago